DESPERATE attempts by some Zimbabweans in South Africa to clandestinely acquire special work permits are reportedly backfiring amid reports that many are being conned to believe they will be assisted to acquire new documents through the back door.
The ZEPs expire at the end of this month with SA authorities giving Zimbabweans with the special permits a 12-months grace period to apply for other regular permits through the immigration legal framework.
The move was reportedly precipitated by the ruling African National Congress (ANC)’s historic poor electoral showing in the recently conducted municipal and national elections.
The ANC’s “soft” position on foreign immigrants, among them Zimbabweans, has been attributed to the party’s worst-ever electoral performance in municipal plebiscites.
Since the cabinet resolution, some Zimbabweans, desperate to prolong their stay in a country which has given them economic solace, have been exploring all avenues possible to extend their stay.
The Zimbabweans have fallen prey to confidence tricksters who are milking them large sums of money under the guise that they will facilitate the regular permits for them.
A Johannesburg-based Zimbabwean, Sithokozile Sibanda told the Zimbabwe Independent that she was swindled of R5 000 (approximately US$310) after being promised a “legitimate” work permit.
“I was introduced to a South African national by a fellow Zimbabwean who said he was assisted to acquire a work permit by the former two weeks ago,” Sibanda told the Independent in an interview.
“I met up with the facilitator who was so eloquent that he easily convinced me to pay for his services. Unfortunately, he vanished without a trace.”
It has since emerged that the South African national is working hand-in-glove with a group of Zimbabweans who are tasked with hoodwinking their fellow nationals into believing that their permits can be successfully processed.
Another Zimbabwean, Thomas Matipedza, showed the Independent a letter handed to him by his employer advising him that he has to process his permit by January 10, 2022, failure of which his contract would be terminated.
Read the letter in part: “The department of Home Affairs has set the deadline for December 31 for all foreign national employees to be in possession of renewed work permits. However, to date, there are still renewed work permits that have not been renewed. In light of the above, you must therefore be in possession of your renewed work permit by Monday January 10, 2022.
“Should you not be able to provide the company with a renewed work permit before close of business on the aforementioned date, the company shall have no alternative but to proceed with an incapacity process, which may result in the termination of your services.”
Matipedza said many Zimbabweans in formal employment have received similar letters and the mounting pressure has pushed them into the hands of unscrupulous people who are taking advantage of their desperation.
“My friend was in contact with this South African woman who promised to facilitate her with a permit because she was ‘connected’ to officials at the Department of Home Affairs,” said Sandra Moyo based in Pretoria.
“What was fishy was that she did not want to send text or WhatsApp messages; she called with different numbers each time they communicated and insisted on receiving the full payment on their third meeting. She did not want to be traced.”
Once the payment was made, that was the last she heard from the facilitator who had been handed R5 500.
The recent clarification by South African Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi that cabinet did not backtrack on its November decision regarding ZEPs is likely to push Zimbabweans into the hands of fraudsters. Analyst Jethro Makumbe said the desperation leading to people opting to partake in illegal activities is rooted in problems back home.
“If things are properly done in this country, locals will never stampede out of their country or worse still, refuse to come back to their homeland. Something is seriously wrong and this exposes the weaknesses of the ruling elite,” Makumbe said.